This portrait clearly derives from the celebrated Portrait of Paul III by Titian, which Scipione Pulzone would have been able to admire in the rooms of Palazzo Farnese in Rome, along with the Portrait of Paul III with his nephews, also by Titian (both these portraits are now in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples). Scipione Pulzone established himself as a portrait painter in Rome in the second half of the 16th Century, continuing in the tradition of Raphael. In this picture, Pulzone's debts to the young Titian are evident, as well as his skillful blending of the Flemish attention to detail and the Venetian use of colour that would characterise his career. The composition of this portrait differs from Titian's painting in the enlargment of the composition in the lower half: this allowed Pulzone to concentrate on depicting the textures of the fabrics, which made him so famous. Pulzone worked for the most important aristocratic families in Rome, as well as the Aragona in Naples and the Medici court in Florence. Paul III was the last of the Renaissance Popes and the first Pope of the Counter-Reformation. A notable patron of the arts, he also encouraged the beginning of the reform movement and called the Council of Trent in 1545. It is very possible that members of the Farnese family commissioned copies of the Titian image, given the prestige and importance of the Pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church and in their own family. Another copy by Scipione Pulzone is in the Galleria Spada, Rome (see E. Vaudo, Scipione Pulzone da Gaeta, pittore, Gaeta, 1976, fig. 10).
We are grateful to Dr. Alexandra Dern for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs.